Crouse Becoming More Consistent

DUNEDIN, FL - During his first crack at high-A ball in 2012, Michael Crouse had his share of struggles. In his first 59 games with the Dunedin Blue Jays, Crouse hit just .203 and struck out in nearly a third of his plate appearances before being demoted to single-A Lansing. This year, the former 16th-round pick has made the necessary adjustments to succeed with Dunedin.

"I've really been focusing on my approach [at the plate] this year," Crouse said. "I've taken some knowledge that Barney [hitting instructor Mike Barnett] gave me at the beginning of the year and just focused on a zone – like a nine-ball box – and really stuck to that.

"The strikeouts in years passed have been high and I've tried to cut that down and put more balls in play. Come two strikes, you just keep battling and see the ball real deep so you can try to put something in play. I know that by putting more balls in play, I have a better chance to make something happen and get on base."

In addition to the adjustments Crouse had made in regards to his approach, the 6-foot-4 outfielder has altered his batting stance this season. After relying on a crouched stance last year, Crouse has gone to a much more upright stance that has his hands start farther out in front of him.

Hitting coach Stubby Clapp described the modification as a "major overhaul" and feels that Crouse has done a good job adapting.

"He's been able to take that physical adjustment, get comfortable with it as a hitter and then take the mental adjustment and accept it physically," Clapp explained.

"Being able to apply his approach middle-away and both recognizing and laying off offspeed stuff has been the biggest adjustments for him. He's really started to flourish with it and we just look for him to continue on."

The adjustments Crouse has made have been evident on the field, as he is hitting .261 with 17 extra-base hits through 53 games and has lowered his strikeout rate from 31.4 percent between Dunedin and Lansing last year to 23.6 percent this season.

Blue Jays manager Bobby Meacham has recognized Crouse's improvements at the plate this season and rewarded the slugger by moving him up to the number three spot in the lineup towards the end of June.

Crouse has flourished since being moved into the heart of the order, as he boasts a .302/.418/.415 [entering Saturday's contest] line since settling into the three-hole on June 28th. Crouse explained that the change in his lineup position has also allowed him to be more aggressive on the base paths.

"I've been able to start running more once I get on base and get into scoring position for [K.C.] Hobson and [Gabe] Jacobo. They're not really base stealers themselves, so when I was hitting behind those guys, I was kind of stuck behind them."

After attempting just eight steals in 34 games prior to moving up to the third spot in the lineup, Crouse has gone 8-for-12 in steal attempts in his first 16 games since making the move.

A true five-tool talent, Crouse has settled into centerfield this season for Dunedin after splitting time between center and right field the past two seasons. He admitted that transitioning to right field was initially difficult for him considering that centerfield was his primary position when he originally became an outfielder.

However, he feels that he has adapted quickly and is now comfortable in either spot. Coach Clapp believes that Crouse had really improved this year in the outfield – particularly on his routes tracking the ball and his throwing accuracy – but admitted that in the long-term, he may be better suited to right field.

"I think he could be a good centerfielder, but I think he would be a better right fielder. That's just my personal opinion.

"I think he does a great job in centerfield. He runs down balls well and does a good job at setting up on specific hitters, but I think for him, he is more of a right-field speed guy. He's got the decent arm to play right field and I think he makes a good corner [outfielder], but shoot, he could play both."

Crouse is familiar with playing against and alongside elite talent, as the 22-year-old has an abundance of international tournament experience.

The British Columbia native was a part of the Canadian national team that finished third at the 2011 Baseball World Cup and he represented the gold-medal Canadian squad at the 2011 Pan American Games. Crouse was beaming with excitement as he reflected on his past experiences.

"International baseball is like being in the playoffs every single game, because every single game means advancing to the next round and getting to the gold medal game.

"The game that sticks out the most has to be the championship game in the Pan American games, because Team Canada had never won a gold medal in any one of those tournaments. To win that with that group of guys was unbelievable, especially beating the USA in the finals."

Shortly after being drafted by the Blue Jays in 2008, Crouse represented Canada in the 2008 Junior World Championship, where he was named to the tournament All-Star team alongside teammate Brett Lawrie.

One of the other two outfielders to be named to the tournament All-Star team was Cuban outfielder Yasiel Puig. Unaware that he had previously played against the current Dodger sensation, Crouse tried to recall his experience from the tournament.

"I had no idea [about Puig]. All I remember from that tournament was that a couple of guys defected. Now I'm going to have to go back and Google the squad that Cuba put together and see. I know I've played against [Adeiny] Hechavarria in Mexico, and he was with us. That's kind of cool to know that I've played against these guys that are now in the big leagues."

It turns out that one of the two players that defected from that Cuban team during the 2008 tournament is Boston infielder and frontrunner for the AL rookie of year, Jose Iglesias.

As Dunedin continues into the more grueling part of the season, Crouse understands that it will take more focus and extra conditioning to maintain the success that he has had so far this season.

"I need to stay consistent and keep the body healthy, because we're entering August now and the body is the main thing that's going to keep me from going up the levels. I've got to make sure that I'm healthy and continue to get into the cage and gym to keep going."

Given his tools and athletic 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame, Crouse is definitely a prospect worth monitoring as he moves up the Blue Jays system. In the meantime, Clapp echoed that consistency will be key for the youngster given the improvements that he has made this year at Dunedin.

"If he can just continue what he's doing now, his numbers will speak for themselves come September. He just needs to continue on where he's at and continue his approach and his abilities.

"With him, the sky's the limit, especially with his size and his ability. He needs to continue to use that and use his leverage with his arms and the length in his arms.

"Hitting-wise, he's going to be great. He's got all the physical tools. We just need to see him come out consistently. We're looking at a guy that can potentially move up in the system real easily."


Future Jays Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\n\"I've really been focusing on my approach [at the plate] this year,\" Crouse said. \"I've taken some knowledge that Barney [hitting instructor Mike Barnett] gave me at the beginning of the year and just focused on a zone – like a nine-ball box – and really stuck to that.
\r\n
\r\n\"The strikeouts in years passed have been high and I've tried to cut that down and put more balls in play. Come two strikes, you just keep battling and see the ball real deep so you can try to put something in play. I know that by putting more balls in play, I have a better chance to make something happen and get on base.\"
\r\n
\r\nIn addition to the adjustments Crouse had made in regards to his approach, the 6-foot-4 outfielder has altered his batting stance this season. After relying on a crouched stance last year, Crouse has gone to a much more upright stance that has his hands start farther out in front of him.
\r\n
\r\nHitting coach Stubby Clapp described the modification as a \"major overhaul\" and feels that Crouse has done a good job adapting.
\r\n
\r\n\"He's been able to take that physical adjustment, get comfortable with it as a hitter and then take the mental adjustment and accept it physically,\" Clapp explained.
\r\n
\r\n\"Being able to apply his approach middle-away and both recognizing and laying off offspeed stuff has been the biggest adjustments for him. He's really started to flourish with it and we just look for him to continue on.\"
\r\n
\r\nThe adjustments Crouse has made have been evident on the field, as he is hitting .261 with 17 extra-base hits through 53 games and has lowered his strikeout rate from 31.4 percent between Dunedin and Lansing last year to 23.6 percent this season.
\r\n
\r\nBlue Jays manager Bobby Meacham has recognized Crouse's improvements at the plate this season and rewarded the slugger by moving him up to the number three spot in the lineup towards the end of June.
\r\n
\r\nCrouse has flourished since being moved into the heart of the order, as he boasts a .302/.418/.415 [entering Saturday's contest] line since settling into the three-hole on June 28th. Crouse explained that the change in his lineup position has also allowed him to be more aggressive on the base paths.
\r\n
\r\n\"I've been able to start running more once I get on base and get into scoring position for [K.C.] Hobson and [Gabe] Jacobo. They're not really base stealers themselves, so when I was hitting behind those guys, I was kind of stuck behind them.\"
\r\n
\r\nAfter attempting just eight steals in 34 games prior to moving up to the third spot in the lineup, Crouse has gone 8-for-12 in steal attempts in his first 16 games since making the move.
\r\n
\r\nA true five-tool talent, Crouse has settled into centerfield this season for Dunedin after splitting time between center and right field the past two seasons. He admitted that transitioning to right field was initially difficult for him considering that centerfield was his primary position when he originally became an outfielder.
\r\n
\r\nHowever, he feels that he has adapted quickly and is now comfortable in either spot. Coach Clapp believes that Crouse had really improved this year in the outfield – particularly on his routes tracking the ball and his throwing accuracy – but admitted that in the long-term, he may be better suited to right field.
\r\n
\r\n\"I think he could be a good centerfielder, but I think he would be a better right fielder. That's just my personal opinion.
\r\n
\r\n\"I think he does a great job in centerfield. He runs down balls well and does a good job at setting up on specific hitters, but I think for him, he is more of a right-field speed guy. He's got the decent arm to play right field and I think he makes a good corner [outfielder], but shoot, he could play both.\"
\r\n
\r\nCrouse is familiar with playing against and alongside elite talent, as the 22-year-old has an abundance of international tournament experience.
\r\n
\r\nThe British Columbia native was a part of the Canadian national team that finished third at the 2011 Baseball World Cup and he represented the gold-medal Canadian squad at the 2011 Pan American Games. Crouse was beaming with excitement as he reflected on his past experiences.
\r\n
\r\n\"International baseball is like being in the playoffs every single game, because every single game means advancing to the next round and getting to the gold medal game.
\r\n
\r\n\"The game that sticks out the most has to be the championship game in the Pan American games, because Team Canada had never won a gold medal in any one of those tournaments. To win that with that group of guys was unbelievable, especially beating the USA in the finals.\"
\r\n
\r\nShortly after being drafted by the Blue Jays in 2008, Crouse represented Canada in the 2008 Junior World Championship, where he was named to the tournament All-Star team alongside teammate Brett Lawrie.
\r\n
\r\nOne of the other two outfielders to be named to the tournament All-Star team was Cuban outfielder Yasiel Puig. Unaware that he had previously played against the current Dodger sensation, Crouse tried to recall his experience from the tournament.
\r\n
\r\n\"I had no idea [about Puig]. All I remember from that tournament was that a couple of guys defected. Now I'm going to have to go back and Google the squad that Cuba put together and see. I know I've played against [Adeiny] Hechavarria in Mexico, and he was with us. That's kind of cool to know that I've played against these guys that are now in the big leagues.\"
\r\n
\r\nIt turns out that one of the two players that defected from that Cuban team during the 2008 tournament is Boston infielder and frontrunner for the AL rookie of year, Jose Iglesias.
\r\n
\r\nAs Dunedin continues into the more grueling part of the season, Crouse understands that it will take more focus and extra conditioning to maintain the success that he has had so far this season.
\r\n
\r\n\"I need to stay consistent and keep the body healthy, because we're entering August now and the body is the main thing that's going to keep me from going up the levels. I've got to make sure that I'm healthy and continue to get into the cage and gym to keep going.\"
\r\n
\r\nGiven his tools and athletic 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame, Crouse is definitely a prospect worth monitoring as he moves up the Blue Jays system. In the meantime, Clapp echoed that consistency will be key for the youngster given the improvements that he has made this year at Dunedin.
\r\n
\r\n\"If he can just continue what he's doing now, his numbers will speak for themselves come September. He just needs to continue on where he's at and continue his approach and his abilities.
\r\n
\r\n\"With him, the sky's the limit, especially with his size and his ability. He needs to continue to use that and use his leverage with his arms and the length in his arms.
\r\n
\r\n\"Hitting-wise, he's going to be great. He's got all the physical tools. We just need to see him come out consistently. We're looking at a guy that can potentially move up in the system real easily.\"
\r\n
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